What is a protective hairstyle?

Protective hairstyles are those styles that help keep the natural hair protected from stressors such as harsh weather conditions, knots and tangles, over manipulation and over styling from heated tools. These factors can seriously cause hair damage, which can lead to hair being brittle and prone to breakage. Dry, dull and frizzy hair with split ends can be hard to style, as most of you know.

It’s essential to keep your hair styled protectively, with the hair ends tucked away out of harm’s way, as these are the most delicate parts of the hair. Frequent washing, conditioning, detangling and styling often results to constant tugging on your hair, making it weaker. Keeping your hair ends protected makes them less prone to manipulation and being caught or snagged on clothing or our accessories. With your hair styled in a protective way, you can ensure optimum health and growth for your hair.

That being said, protective hairstyles are an important part of having a healthy hair care regimen and if you have natural hair, you should have a few styles in your rotation for every season. Finding the right go-to protective styles that work for you might be a trial-and-error for a time, but once you’ve established what works and styles well for you, you can’t go wrong in the hair style department!

Types of Protective Hairstyles:

1. Braids

One of the most popular and easiest protective hairstyles to do, braids can be plaits formed all over to fall loosely over the shoulders or can be plaited together in sections along the scalp for minimal hair movement. They effectively protect your hair ends from stressors such as over manipulation, snagging and harsh environment.

Popular braid styles include box braids, cornrows, fishtail braids, knotless braids, Fulani braids, crochet braids and Dutch braids, to name a few!

Braids Protective Hairstyle | Beauty Stock / Shutterstock.com

2. Twists

Twists are the ideal, low-maintenance protective hairstyles as they also help lock in moisture in the hair longer while keeping it free from tangles. The twist features two sections of the hair twisted around together to the hair ends. Sections range from small twists to larger, chunky ones, which you can leave in for weeks. The twist style also works well in combination with other protective types.

Popular twist styles include the Senegalese twist, the Havana twists, Marley twist, two-strand, three-strand, goddess locs, and faux locs.

Goddess Locs Protective Hairstyle | Raushan Murshid / Shutterstock.com

3. Updos

An updo keeps your hair up and away from the face and is considered as perhaps the most protective style of all, if you think about it! Keeping your hair up makes it less prone to breakage and damage, which helps your hair gain more of its strength. Perfect for special occasions or more formal events, an updo easily protects your hair from pulling, tugging and snagging.

Popular updo styles for natural hair include the top knot, braided bun, pineapple bun, space buns, bantu knots, the beehive, twisted buns and the high bun, among others.

Braided Bun Updo Protective Hairstyle | Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com

These are only some of the popular types of protective hairstyles for natural hair. Some others include wigs and using headwraps or scarves to protect the hair.

Looking for inspiring styles to try for your protective hairstyle rotation? Browse through our gallery of celebrities all stylishly sporting some of the most popular protective hairstyles to date!

Keke Palmer’s Braids Hairstyle
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Keke Palmer's Chic Braids

Keke Palmer sporting chic burgundy-ish purple box braids styled in a high ponytail is a protective hairstyle moment for us all.

Ava Duvernay Updo Hairstyle
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Ava DuVernay's Updo

Ava DuVernay is a protective hairstyle goddess, as she almost always steps out with her hair in different gorgeous protective styles. Here she styled her dreadlocks in stylish twisted buns.

Lupita Nyong’o’s Stylish Headwrap
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Lupita Nyong'o's Red Carpet Protective Style Look

Lupita Nyong’o sports a lilac head wrap to match her dress at a red carpet event. Head wraps definitely add a stylish element to any ensemble and is perfect for casual, day to day protective hair looks.

Rihanna’s Head Scarf & Braids Style
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Rihanna's Faux Locs with Head Scarf

An ideal protective style for everyday, casual looks, Rihanna with her faux locs styled with a chic head scarf is definitely a fashion moment for the star.

Willow Smith’s Protective Updo Style
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Willow Smith's Loc Updo

Willow Smith absolutely made a style statement when she graced a movie premiere with her hair styled up in an edgy loc updo. Her style featured her hair cornrowed along the crown and styled in a spiky high ponytail.

Gabrielle Union in Chic Updo
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Gabrielle Union's Knot Updo

Another celebrity who loves styling her hair in protective styles, Gabrielle sported a chic updo with bantu knots along the center of her head.

Janelle Monae’s Fishtail Braid Hairstyle
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Janelle Monae's Fishtail Braid Hairstyle

Janelle Monae slayed the red carpet in a with her hair in an epic fishtail braided mohawk with the front styled in a pompadour look. It definitely added to her edgy glam vibe, don’t you agree?

Beyonce’s Glam Protective Hairstyle
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Beyonce's Glam Braids

Beyonce was a glam queen at this red carpet event, no doubt! Her hair was styled in cornrows arranged in a wavy pattern that’s most definitely an aesthetic!

Yara Shahidi’s Edgy Updo
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Yara Shahidi's Edgy Updo

With her cornrows styled into an almost “sculptural” braid pattern at the back, Yara Shahidi’s edgy look is absolutely a hairstyle to remember!

Teyonah Parris’ Updo Hairstyle
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Teyonah Parris' Beehive Updo Hairstyle

Teyonah Parris stepped out in a with a cornrow front and intricate twists that resulted to a gorgeous beehive updo.

Tasha Smith Marley Twists Style
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Tasha Smith Marley Twists Style

A gorgeous protective style suited for any occasion, the Marley twist is ideal for on-the-go women or those looking for a stylish every day style. Tasha Smith stepping out in Marley twists looked beautiful, don’t you think so too?

Maegan Good’s Protective Hairstyle
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Maegan Good's Protective Hairstyle

Actress and model Maegan Good definitely looked like a goddess with her boho goddess locs style.

Zoe Kravitz Partial Braids Style
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Zoe Kravitz Partial Braids Style

Zoe Kravitz has sported protective styles numerous times, but we can say that this is one of our favorites! She styled her hair in partial boho box braids with gorgeous wavy ends at a Saint Laurent show.

Logan Browning’s Tall Updo Style
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Logan Browning's Tall Updo Style

The ‘Dear White People’ star styled her twists up in an ultra tall ninja bun hairstyle that’s ultra edgy and definitely a fashion style statement!

Alicia Keys’ Braided Hairstyle
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Alicia Key's Iconic Fulani Braids

Alicia Keys sporting Fulani braids with wooden end beads and a forehead piece is definitely a style mood.

Amanda Gorman’s Braided Updo
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Amanda Gorman's Braided Updo

A chic style that’s easy to accomplish, you can also rock Amanda Gorman’s braided ninja bun updo. Style with cute hair clips for a lovely accent!

Kiki Layne’s Bantu Knot Hairstyle
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Kiki Layne's Bantu Knot Hairstyle

Kiki Layne’s numerous protective hairstyles are always on point, and this one is no exception. Her Bantu knot hairstyle added a fierce vibe to her overall look at this event.

Tessa Thompson’s Long Senegalese Twists Hairstyle
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Tessa Thompson's Long Senegalese Twists Hairstyle

The ‘Avengers: End Game’ star definitely rocked her ultra long Senegalese twists protective hairstyle at this premiere event.

Solange Knowles’ Senegalese Twists Hair
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

Solange Knowles' Senegalese Twists Hair

Solange Knowles effortlessly sporting a Senegalese twist protective hairstyle, an easy, low-maintenance and stylish look you can also achieve!

Rapsody’s Updo with Headscarf
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Rapsody's Updo with Head Scarf

Rapsody stepped out with her braids styled in a chic updo that’s gorgeously embellished with a printed head scarf, combining two protective hairstyle types into one chic combo.

Brandy’s Senegalese Twist Updo
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Brandy's Senegalese Twist Updo

A gorgeous hair moment to capture, Brandy rocked a stunning thick Senegalese twist in a half up, half down look. Perfection!

Lizzo’s Beehive Hairstyle
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Lizzo's Beehive Hairstyle

Lizzo proves that she can rock the beehive hairstyle, too! And we definitely approve of this elegant updo on her!

Yvonne Orji’s Updo Protective Style
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Yvonne Orji's Updo Protective Style

Actress and comedian Yvonne Orji’s textured updo is most definitely a style statement by itself!

Ciara in Faux Locs
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Ciara in Faux Goddess Locs

Ciara in faux, two-tone goddess locs is a protective hairstyle moment that’s full of boho chic vibes that you can definitely rock, too!

Kelly McCreary’s Braided Ponytail
DFree / Shutterstock.com

Kelly McCreary's Braided Ponytail

We definitely love how she rocks her different hairstyles in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, but for us, this is one of Kelly McCreary’s chic-est hair moments! She styled her hair up in a multi-size braided ponytail with perfect fishtail ends.

Issa Rae’s Braid Hairstyle
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Issa Rae's Braid Hairstyle

‘Insecure’ star Issa Rae is the picture of effortless glam with her high pony braid featuring side braids with gorgeous, intricate beading.

Kerry Washington’s Braided Ponytail
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Kerry Washington's Braided Ponytail

A goddess in the red carpet, Kerry Washington paired her sophisticated outfit with a sleek, braided ponytail that’s oh so chic!

Jordin Sparks in Box Braids
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Jordin Sparks in Box Braids

Box braids can spice up any casual ensemble, as Jordin Sparks easily demonstrates!

Tia Mowry’s Braided Hairstyle
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Tia Mowry's Braided Hairstyle

Tia Mowry looks classy and sophisticated with her box braids protective style, don’t you agree?

Zendaya in Dreadlocks Hairstyle
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Zendaya's Waist-Length Braids

A hairstyle chameleon of her generation, Zendaya keeps on churning out gorgeous ‘dos – she just can’t do no wrong! In this event, the ‘Spiderman’ actress graced the red carpet dripping in gorgeous, waist-length braids.